This summer's top destination? A spot at a KOA campground
A growing number of vacationers are camping without roughing it by going to privately-owned suburban parks with family-friendly amenities like furnished cabins, pools, free Wi-Fi, hot showers and laundry service. Many of these parks are affiliated with Kampgrounds of America, which started with one roadside campground in Billings, Montana, and now has 500 of them nationwide; it added 50 new campgrounds in just the past two years.
A summer vacation is beneficial for getting away from the daily grind, so it's great to know many Americans are still planning to take one, despite all the economic turmoil. Doing a survey of 2,200 people, the U.S. Travel Association believes that two-thirds of Americans plan to take at least one overnight trip during the next six months, although they'll be spending less on travel than before. RVs are seeing an uptick in use, thanks to way lower gas prices than last summer. Gas is the biggest cost, obviously, but it's easy to find a free or rock-bottom cheap campground to park the motorhome in every state. My parents are planning to take advantage of the ultimate free campsite -- the local Wal-Mart parking lot.
A big victim of the cutbacks in summer-travel spending will be hotels, obviously. But suprisingly, so is state and national park campsites. Based on their own surveys, outdoor gear manufacturers say tent camping has been on the decline for years. They say the reason why is "perhaps due to a growing aversion among American teens to spending time outdoors." For someone whose favorite summer family trips involved a tent in Yosemite and the Canyonlands, I think that sucks -- your senses have not fully expanded until you wake up next to a mountain lake and to the scent of pine trees and coffee brewing over a campfire. You're certainly not going to get that at one of the new KOA campgrounds (if you want a pool, a hot shower and free Wi-fi in a suburban area, why not just stay home and make it a "staycation"?), but looks like campers like me are the weirdo extremists these days. But I'm not shedding too many tears -- looks like I'll have my choice of campsites in the Sierra Nevadas this summer.